It is a very long poem. I don’t know when I can complete it. I am coaching some Civil Service candidates now on essay writing. That takes away my time.
Shelby M. Cullom, a Springfield friend of Lincoln who was elected to the “Lincoln seat” in Congress in 1865, compared Lincoln to Moses: “To Lincoln was given but a glimpse of the Promised Land. He lived to see the power of rebellion broken, but was sent to his eternal reward before he saw the authority of the Union established in all rebellious States. He was permitted to go into the mountain, Nebo, and to catch a glimpse of the Promised Land of a restored nation, but his weary feet were not permitted to cross the border that separated it from the Wilderness of Civil War. With his gentle but firm manner he had led Congress to do his bidding. The rising curtain of succeeding years has only served to show the soul of wisdom which that legislative body had before it during those dark days as a guiding angel.”134
On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralyzed, by a political war among themselves?
But the election was a necessity.
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as a strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people’s votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.
But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.
May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?
And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.129
Looking at Melville's Billy Budd in relation to Thoreau's essay, Resistance to Civil Government, will help students make connections between various parts of the American literature curriculum and enhance their appreciation for both works.
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This Learning Guide suggests that the lesson culminate in an essay assignment requiring students to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of civil disobedience described in Thoreau's essay and the conflict between law and justice explored in Billy Budd.
Essays And Counsels, Civil and Moral - IDEAS/RePEc
In reference to these admitted defects and crimes, I only wish to show that even these do not make him “the meanest of mankind.” What crimes have sullied many of those benefactors whom all ages will admire and honor, and whom, in spite of their defects, we call good men,–not bad men to be forgiven for their services, but excellent and righteous on the whole! See Abraham telling lies to the King of Egypt; and Jacob robbing his brother of his birthright; and David murdering his bravest soldier to screen himself from adultery; and Solomon selling himself to false idols to please the wicked women who ensnared him; and Peter denying his Master; and Marcus Aurelius persecuting the Christians; and Constantine putting to death his own son; and Theodosius slaughtering the citizens of Thessalonica; and Isabella establishing the Inquisition; and Sir Mathew Hale burning witches; and Cromwell stealing a sceptre; and Calvin murdering Servetus; and Queen Elizabeth lying and cheating and swearing in the midst of her patriotic labors for her country and civilization. Even the sun passes through eclipses. Have the spots upon the career of Bacon hidden the brightness of his general beneficence? Is he the meanest of men because he had great faults? When we speak of mean men, it is those whose general character is contemptible.
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Take his ,–these are among his best-known works,–so brilliant and forcible, suggestive and rich, that even Archbishop Whately’s commentaries upon them are scarcely an addition. Surely these are not on material subjects, and indicate anything but a worldly or sordid nature. In these famous Essays, so luminous with the gems of genius, we read not such worldly-wise exhortations as Lord Chesterfield impressed upon his son, not the gossiping frivolities of Horace Walpole, not the cynical wit of Montaigne, but those great certitudes which console in affliction, which kindle hope, which inspire lofty resolutions,–anchors of the soul, pillars of faith, sources of immeasurable joy, the glorious ideals of true objects of desire, the eternal unities of truth and love and beauty; all of which reveal the varied experiences of life and the riches of deeply-pondered meditation on God and Christianity, as well as knowledge of the world and the desirableness of its valued gifts. How beautiful are his thoughts on death, on adversity, on glory, on anger, on friendship, on fame, on ambition, on envy, on riches, on youth and old age, and divers other subjects of moral import, which show the elevation of his soul, and the subjective as well as the objective turn of his mind; not dwelling on what he should eat and what he should drink and wherewithal he should be clothed, but on the truths which appeal to our higher nature, and which raise the thoughts of men from earth to heaven, or at least to the realms of intellectual life and joy.